Friday, November 4, 2011

Four accused sentenced for penitentiary for the tenure of 6 – 32 months in Spot-Fixing scandal

A London court has handed out jail terms to the three players and their agent found guilty in the spot-fixing case, drawing the curtains on one of cricket's most sordid and shameful sagas. Salman Butt, the former Pakistan captain, has been sentenced to two years and six months; Mohammad Asif has got a one-year jail sentence and his fellow fast bowler Mohammad Amir six months. Mazhar Majeed, the players' agent, has been sentenced to two years and eight months.

They will serve half the time in custody and then be released on license, with conditions which, if broken, would see them back in detention for the remainder of their term.

The four men had been charged with conspiracy to accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat in regard to the Lord's Test against England in August 2010, when the three pre-determined no-balls were bowled - two by Amir and one by Asif, orchestrated by Butt and arranged by Majeed. While Amir and Majeed had pleaded guilty before the trial began, Butt and Asif denied the charges and were found guilty by a jury on Tuesday.

The sentences were handed down in Southwark Crown Court on Thursday morning - the 22nd day of the trial - by Justice Cooke, who prefaced the quantum of punishment with some stinging remarks on the four convicted men and a sobering reminder on the legacy of their actions on the sport itself. He also made clear to Majeed and Amir that their sentences had been reduced - from four years and nine months, respectively - because they had pleaded guilty, and told all the players that the bans imposed by the ICC had also had a mitigating effect.

The incarceration began immediately, with the players - who had all come to court with bags - driven away in prison vans after leaving a courtroom packed beyond capacity. Amir will not be sent to jail but to a young offenders' detention centre.

In the aftermath of the sentencing process, while TV crews hovered outside the courthouse, the one main area of debate was what would happen with regards to appeals. Butt's solicitor Paul Harris confirmed on the entrance steps of the courthouse that his team would be lodging an appeal "in the next 24 hours".

Amir's team met with the judge behind closed doors immediately, and grounds for appeal were rejected then, which is apparently normal practice as the sentencing judge is hardly going to admit his punishment was incorrect minutes after meting it out. They are, though, awaiting further clearance, probably in the next 24 hours, which will allow them to lodge an appeal.

Majeed and Asif's legal representatives are yet to announce appeal plans though these are expected soon. There is no suggestion that any of the quartets are seeking bail, while awaiting appeals.

The PCB called it a "sad day" for Pakistan cricket. "Instead of having pride in playing for their country, these players chose to disappoint their supporters, damage the image of their country and bring the noble game of cricket into disrepute. There is little sympathy in Pakistan for the sorry pass they have come to."

In Lahore, the families of the convicted players were stunned by the sentences. Amir's father said the Pakistan government should have helped his son. His brother Saleem said: "He is a kid, he can't understand things. These six months are a lot for a boy who is immature."

Butt's father Zulfiqar was more aggressive, saying his son was innocent. "Our own friends conspired against us," he said. "You can check our bank balance; we haven't even been able to build our own house."

The judge began the day's proceedings with his summation of the case of each of the four found guilty, reading out their sentences one at a time, and his initial words suggested jail terms for all four guilty.

"Now, when people look back at a surprising event in a game or a surprising result or ever in the future there are surprising results, followers of the game who have paid to watch cricket or who have watched cricket on TV will wonder whether there has been a fix or what they have watched was natural."

Cooke had harsh words for Butt, whom he called "the orchestrator of these had to be to make sure these two bowlers were bowling at the time of the fix." Butt's leadership status, he said, made him more culpable than his bowlers.

He specifically mentioned Butt's role in involving Amir in the corruption. "An 18 year old from a poverty stricken village background, very different to your own privileged one, who, whilst a very talented bowler, would be inclined to do what his senior players and particularly his captain told him, especially when told there was money in it for him and this was part of the common culture. For an impressionable youngster, not long in the team to stand out against the blandishments of his captain would have been hard."

To Asif he said: "Whilst no money was found in your possession, it's clear that you conspired to bowl a no-ball. There's no evidence on your part of prior fixing but it's hard to see that this could have been an isolated incident."

For Amir there was praise for accepting his guilt and a re-assertion of Butt's influence on Amir but a refusal to accept the basis of his plea, that his only involvement in spot fixing was at Lord's on August 26 and 27 and that he only became involved as a result of pressure and threats to his career.

In this regard he referred to evidence, in the shape of texts and telephone calls with a Pakistani number, of Amir's involvement in discussions about fixing brackets at The Oval during the period of the indictment, though there was no evidence that such fixing actually occurred. That discussion, Justice Cooke noted, did not relate to Majeed.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spot fixing! Jury scrutinized all phone calls and video tapes

The alleged spot-fixing trial, involving Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif at Southwark Crown Court, has entered another operative phase with the first witness, the ICC's chief investigator Ravi Sawani, being called. Before this the jury was shown video footage of the now infamous no-balls during the Lord's Test last year and also records of phone and text conversations.

Aftab Jafferjee QC, for the prosecution, resumed his opening address from the previous afternoon and went on to detail an alleged corrupt relationship between then Test captain Butt and his agent Mazhar Majeed. He finished off details of meetings, phone conversations and text messages surrounding The Oval Test against England last year, before moving on to details of the Lord's Test.

The jury was shown a replay of Mohammad Amir's no-ball from the first delivery of the third over before the proceedings were interrupted for lunch, and two more alleged pre-planned no-balls by Asif and Amir after the break. All sets of legal representatives had agreed previously that sound and commentary would not be played, presumably so as not to influence the jury's conclusion of the footage.

Butt and Asif are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following that Lord's Test in August last year when they allegedly conspired with Majeed, teenage fast bowler Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-determined no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

They were exposed by the now defunct British tabloid the News of the World in an undercover sting operation. Majeed was filmed revealing when no-balls would be delivered by the bowlers. That footage from secret cameras was also played to the jury on Thursday morning.

After lunch the undercover News of the World journalist Mazhar Mahmood, otherwise known as 'the fake Sheikh' from the time he snared former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, was to give his evidence. But because Jafferjee did not complete his opening until 15.28, there was no time for Mahmood and Ravi Sawani, the ICC's senior consultant in anti-corruption and security matters, was last to appear. Mahmood is now expected to appear on Monday as the case is adjourned until then.

Butt and Asif again sat through the proceedings in the dock, with Asif accompanied by Mr Khan from the national database of interpreters, while Butt sat two seats down from his former team-mate, wearing a brown velvet jacket, jeans and Adidas trainers.

An interesting aspect of the morning's account centred around conversations between Mahmood, referred to in court as 'the journalist' to avoid confusion with Majeed, and Majeed himself. Jafferjee told how Mahmood was expecting no-balls to be delivered that had been promised him as proof that would appease his fictitious backers in the Far East.

But Majeed said they could not be delivered on the third day as coach Waqar Younis had held a team meeting and ordered his bowlers to cut down on the extras after 32 had been allowed on the second day - six wides and five no-balls. Instead, the prosecution went on to explain, an alternative plan was hatched whereby Butt would bat out a maiden. That did not happen in the event.

Of further interest was the heavy phone and text traffic between Butt, Majeed and Amir leading up to the Lord's Test - Asif less so. In fact, Majeed called Amir at 1.27am at his hotel while he was sleeping, the morning before the match was due to begin, after having collected £140,000 from Mahmood for the promise of three pre-determined no-balls and future fixing, the jury heard.

All stories of phone and text traffic were substantiated with official records from phone companies that proved the dialogue between the various parties. Jafferjee then told how Amir messaged Majeed at 6.24am on the morning of the Lord's Test and said 'this is my friend's number in Pakistan, when you're done send them a message'.

Amir then made repeated calls to a number in Pakistan. Majeed later that morning made a call to a regular Indian number he had often phoned. The prosecution had already told of how Majeed boasted his betting contacts were in India.

But while the jury had been swamped with so much information and evidence of alleged corrupt dealings between the defendants, Jafferjee was clear in what he wanted them to remember the most. And that was the phone traffic between all four alleged conspirators on the evening before the third no-ball was delivered.

The sequence in Jafferjee's address that best supports this sentiment was the evening after a weather-affected first day at Lord's. The bet was for three pre-determined no-balls but bad light ended play for the day before the third no-ball could be bowled, the jury heard.

A series of "frenetic activity" on the phone between all four then takes place within a couple of hours of the match being called off for the day.

"It is an irresistible inference, say the prosecution, that between these four men, what is being sorted out is that third no-ball," Jafferjee told the court. "How will that now take place? The credibility staked - as well as money exchanged - is high. An arrangement for the next day is still not finalised.

"Why do we say that? Because when the journalist calls Majeed, it is plain that things are not finalised. More texts have to follow between them. Furthermore, that triangulation of calls has to be repeated, involving the three players and Majeed," which phone records in the hands of the jury apparently exhibit.

The prosecution also detailed the monies found in the players' rooms and on Majeed - whose wife had £500 of marked £50 notes from the News of the World found in her purse and a further £2,500 was found in his Aston Martin car.

Butt had the most cash in his room at the Regents Park Marriott Hotel when it was raided by police on the Saturday night of the Test - after Mahmood had alerted the police of his investigation. That cash included various currencies and totalled more than double the amount of cash that could be explained for through daily expenses - players received £114 a day in England, while Butt pocked a £250 weekly bonus for being captain.

Much of the money was found in a locked suitcase that Butt said belonged to his wife and for which he did not have the key. When it was opened they found a "large" amount of currency - some of which was in envelopes and some not. In total the stash included £14,003 in one spot, and £15,999 in various denominations in envelopes. There was also US$12,617, 24,300 of UAE dirhams, AUS$710, 26,015 Pakistani rupees, $350 Canadian, 440 South African rand - as well as four mobile phones.

Meanwhile, Sawani was in front of the jury for just over half an hour. His responses, while not very specific as to the case itself, will have left the the jury more familiar with the vast sums of money involved in the illegal cricket betting industry.

"One single legal betting company could generate £40 million for a one-day international," Sawani told the court, "For an India-Pakistan one-day international in Mumbai, you can have as much as $200 million bet in the illegal betting market in Mumbai and then (additionally) there are the cities around India, the UK, the South East (Asia) and Dubai."

Sawani told of the sinister underworld that exists in the illegal betting industry and said that accounts are settled the day after a bet is made and that there are no defaulters because "mafias are the enforcers".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jonathan Trott was titled with the Cricketer of the Year 2011

Jonathan Trott, the England batsman, has been named the Cricketer of the Year for 2011, the ICC's top accolade. He received the Sir Garfield Sobers trophy at the annual ceremony in London, after his team-mate Alastair Cook had won the Test Cricketer of the Year award.

"It's fantastic to be part of a successful team and I never envisaged winning this award. It's a brilliant feeling to be recognized," Trott said.

In 12 Tests during the period under consideration, Trott scored 1042 runs at an average of 65.12, including four centuries and three half-centuries. He also played 24 ODIs, scoring 1064 runs at an average of 48.36 with two centuries and nine 50s. Trott was chosen for the award ahead of Cook, last-year's winner Sachin Tendulkar and South Africa batsman Hashim Amla.

Jonathan TrottEngland opener Alastair Cook has been named the Test Cricketer of the Year at the ICC Awards ceremony in London. Cook beat off competition from his team-mates James Anderson and Jonathan Trott, and South Africa all-rounder Jacques Kallis.

"I think the highlight of year was when we won in Sydney to beat Australia, and Chris Tremlett to take that final wicket, it was truly a great year," Cook said after receiving the award from ICC Hall of Fame inductee Curtly Ambrose. "This award is about the rest of the team not just me."

Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara has been named the ODI Cricketer of the Year for 2011 during the ICC Awards ceremony in London. Sangakkara also won the ICC People's Choice Award, capping a memorable evening for him.

"It's a great honor first of all to have been nominated for this award [ODI Cricketer] and a great honor to have actually won it," said Sangakkara, who was not in London because of the ongoing home series against Australia.

"I would like to thank the rest of my team-mates, they have done a great job over the years in one-day cricket and I am privileged to be part of this and [to have] led these guys for just over two years. I thank you again, I feel very proud."

MS Dhoni, the India captain, has won the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award for his decision to recall Ian Bell after his controversial run-out during the Trent Bridge Test. Dhoni was unavailable to collect his award, though the Indian team was present in England.

"While the initial appeal and umpire decision were correct to the letter of the law, the decision by Mahendra and his team to withdraw the appeal shows great maturity," ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said. "To see players and officials uphold the great spirit of cricket, which has underpinned the game for more than a century, is very special."

West Indies leg spinner Devendra Bishoo has been named the Emerging Player of the Year for 2011 at the ICC Awards ceremony in London. He had competition from his team-mate Darren Bravo and the Pakistan pair of Wahab Riaz and Azhar Ali.

Bishoo, 25, played five Tests in the voting period - August 11, 2010 to August 3, 2011 - and took 21 wickets at an average of 35.42. He also picked up 19 wickets at 21.57 each in 11 ODIs.

"I could not believe it when I was nominated for the ICC Emerging Player of the Year but to win it feels great," Bishoo said. "I would like to dedicate the award to my father. He played a great role in my life and encouraged me to play cricket. After he died I made a promise to always give my best and reach for the top.

Ryan ten Doeschate, the Netherlands all-rounder, has been named the ICC Associate and Affiliate Player of the Year for the third time in four years, and for the second year running. Ten Doeschate was chosen ahead of Afghanistan all-rounder Hamid Hassan, and the Irish duo of Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien, both centurions in the 2011 World Cup, during the awards ceremony in London.

Ten Doeschate, 31, played six ODIs in the voting period - August 11, 2010 to August 3, 2011 - all of them in the World Cup. He scored two centuries and a half-century, and averaged 61.40 for the period with a strike rate of 89.24.

New Zealand seamer Tim Southee has won the award for ICC Twenty20 International Performance of the Year, for his spell of 5 for 18 against Pakistan in Auckland.

"Looking at the nominees, it's a great achievement to have even been nominated and to win it is something I will never forget," Southee, who could not make it to the awards function, said. "Looking back at the game which has won me the award, it was Boxing Day in a full house at Eden Park and it was a big game for us as we'd been going through a rough patch of losing, something like 12 or 13 games on the trot and it was our first win in a long time. It was great to be able to contribute to that win and also put in a great performance."

Pakistan umpire Aleem Dar has won the David Shepherd trophy for the Umpire of the Year for the third consecutive year at the ICC Awards ceremony in London. He beat competition from Steve Davis, Ian Gould and five-time winner Simon Taufel.

Dar, 43, officiated in five Tests and 13 ODIs during the voting period - August 11, 2010 to August 3, 2011 - including the World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka.

Widely regarded for his umpiring standards, Dar was voted to the award by the 10 Full Member captains as well as the eight-man elite panel of match referees.

"It's a great honor and I'm thankful to everyone at the ICC and also my colleagues on the Elite Panel of ICC umpires along with the Pakistan Cricket Board," Dar said. "I'd like to also thank all my family for all their support since I'm away nearly eight months of the year umpiring."